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Browse > Media Type > Short Stories

80 articles

Slant-Eyed Americans (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Facing darkness, Losing hope
  • Available

Short story by Toshio Mori set in the days after the Pearl Harbor attack . A young Nisei man's plans to take his mother to town that day are dashed by the outbreak of war. The next day, business at the flower market is slow, and the Japanese American merchants wonder about their future. Tom, a Nisei gardener friend, doesn't report to work out of despair over the war; the narrator and his family cheer him up. Later, the narrator's brother Kazuo, who is in the army, arrives home for a five-day furlough. At the end of his visit, the family sees him off, pondering the uncertainty of what is to come.

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Roar of Silence (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Communication—verbal and nonverbal, Power of silence, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

While watching a young boy play in a puddle, an elderly Nisei recalls his Issei father. Forced to start over again in his sixties in Chicago after having lost his farm during the mass roundup and incarceration, he also found his role as family leader usurped by his eldest son, who had been a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . Despite these setbacks, the narrator recalls the lessons his father had silently transmitted to him.

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The Loom (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Facing darkness, Loneliness as destructive force, Motherhood, Power of silence
  • Widely available

Short story by R. A. Sasaki that portrays the life of a Nisei woman looking both backwards and forwards after the death of one of her daughters. Born and raised in San Francisco where her family ran a boarding house, the unnamed woman graduated from the University of California before being incarcerated with her family in Tanforan and Topaz during World War II. Returning to San Francisco after the war having married a Kibei man she had known from before the war, she has four daughters while her husband works in the flower industry. Devoted to her daughters, she is at a loss as they leave the house to pursue their own lives and after one dies in a mountain climbing accident. Her daughters' efforts to bring her out of her torpor are largely unsuccessful until one gives her a loom, through which she is able to express the feelings …

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And There Are Stories, There Are Stories (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Coming of age, Coming of age, Power of the past, Self – inner and outer
  • Available

Prose poem memoir by Momoko Iko that traces her family's journey out of the concentration camps and her subsequent upbringing away from Japanese American communities on the West Coast. She begins with her birth in 1940 to Issei parents, her fleeting recollections of her family's incarceration, and life after the war, first in Philadelphia, then Chicago . Various stories centering on racism, racial identity, interracial relations, and the legacy of the camps in the 1950s and 1960s follow, tracing the narrator's journey to becoming a writer.

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Case History (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Patriotism – positive side or complications, Evils of racism
  • Widely available

Short story about a young Nisei couple settling in "Centreville," a fictional small town in California, after World War II. John and Mary Mori arrive and open a flower market in town. But despite John's military service and the couple's good deeds, the face anti-Japanese harassment before a series of events begin to turn the tide. Author Bradford Smith tells the story using fictitious newspaper articles, letters, and personal testimony.

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Nakamura Comes Home (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Injustice, Totalitarianism
  • Widely available

Short story about the return of a Nisei veteran to his California hometown by Henry H. Hayden. Kido Nakamura, with his chest full of medals and a limp due to a war wound, returns to Bonneville, where he had grown up as an orphan, and been on his own since age fourteen, until his forced removal to Tanforan . From camp, he joined the 442nd and served in Europe. He stops first at the hotel where he used to live and work, but a former co-worker tells him that the new owners are unwelcoming. He walks through he town, seeing racist signs, tangible evidence of anti-Japanese sentiment. Walking out to a farm he thinks he can get a job at, he is harassed by drunks and ponders his future in the town.

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Mitsugi's Christmas (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Forgiveness, Love and sacrifice, Optimism – power or folly
  • No availability

Short story by Jennifer "Emiko" Kuida about Mitsugi Yamamoto, an elderly widower at the Keiro Retirement Home in Los Angeles who waits to hear from his busy lawyer daughter and his grandchildren on Christmas Day. Julia, a younger Yonsei volunteer nurse, keeps him company sometimes and listens to his stories of the past, particularly his time at Seabrook Farms, New Jersey , where he and his wife Sumi moved after leaving Manzanar .

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The Shoyu Kid (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Illusion of power, Loss of innocence, Vulnerability of the meek
  • Widely available

Short story by Lonny Kaneko set in Minidoka centering on three boys who chase and bully a fourth boy, in the process unearthing his molestation by a camp guard. The Seattle-based author had been incarcerated at Minidoka as a child. The Shoyu Kid was originally published in Amerasia Journal in 1976.

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The Long Journey and the Short Ride (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Darkness and light, Motherhood, Optimism – power or folly, Reunion
  • Available

Seemingly autobiographical story by Toshio Mori about the author and his brother, a paralyzed veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team , recalling the latter's visit to Topaz prior to shipping out for combat in Europe. The author and his mother get a pass to leave Topaz for the first time since they had arrived in order to see the brother off at the train station. Their apprehensions about being outside the camp are eased by a white family—who had also just seen a son off to war—who offer them a ride to town. Shifting back to the present of the story, the author notes the successful recovery that his brother has made since the war and both brothers lament that neither of their parents lived to see that recovery. The same incident is the basis for another story Mori had written in 1943 titled " The Travelers ." "The …

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Shirley Temple, Hotcha-cha (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Displacement, Heartbreak of betrayal, Isolation, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi about a Nisei strandee couple and their difficulties both in wartime Japan and in the resettlement era U.S. Told in the first-person voice of Mie, the story begins in 1939 when Mie is seventeen. As was the case for a sizable minority of Nisei youth, she had been sent to Japan for her education, having arrived there three years prior. She attends a boarding school and spends holidays with the Kodamas, a wealthy childless couple who are family friends. On a holiday, she meets Jobo Endo, a fellow Nisei, who is in Japan attending college. Courtship ensues. Recognizing the difficulties they would face in Japan as the war heats up, Jobo suggests that Mie ask the Kodamas for money to return to the U.S. However, the Kodamas had hoped to marry off Mie to a grand nephew. Though they consent to Jobo and Mie getting …

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Makapuu Bay (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Facing reality, Lost love, Names – power and significance, Reunion
  • Widely available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi about a divorced middle-aged Japanese American writer who goes to a literary conference in Honolulu where she runs into an old boyfriend from the war years. In flashback, we learn that Sachiko—nicknamed "Pinky" while incarcerated in Poston with her father—had met Mitch Ochiai at the camp swimming hole, where she asked him to teach her to swim. They become a couple and continue to see each other when she resettles in Chicago while he attends the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Minnesota. But her father's illness—and eventual death—forces her to return to Poston, while Mitch heads off to war, and they lose touch. Sachiko ends up marrying Joe Noda, her block manager, and settling in Los Angeles. Though Sachiko is divorced and Mitch has never married, a rekindling of the romance in Hawai'i is not to be.

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Home Is the Expatriate (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Pride and downfall
  • Widely available

Short story by Larry Tajiri about a Nisei strandee just returned from Japan after a decade there. Joe Suzuki was a Nisei in Los Angeles who graduated high school in the mid 1930s. Unwilling to take the types of jobs available to Nisei at that time—primarily agricultural and/or manual labor type jobs—he first tried Hollywood, then went to Japan, as did many other Nisei at that time. He landed a white-collar job at a Japanese firm, but it proved to be a dead end job, and, as a Nisei, he drew suspicion from the police. He attempted to return to the U.S. in November 1941, but his ship turned around midway as war broke out, and he was stuck in Japan during the war. He returns embittered, his mother having died in an American concentration camp, and his father having resettled in Chicago .

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Topaz Mosaic (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Communication—verbal and nonverbal, Family—blessing or curse, Optimism—power or folly, Reunion
  • Widely available

Three vignettes by Toshio Mori centering on a family in Topaz and the furlough visit of their Nisei soldier son. In the first, an Issei father struggles to write a letter to his son Sam in English. In the second, Sam stops in Salt Lake City to buy presents for his family before visiting them in Topaz the next day, recalling the friend (presumably in Topaz) who was convinced he was a "sucker" for volunteering. In the last, Sam is greeted warmly by his family and learns that a sister has left camp for New York and a brother is also joining the army.

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The Broken Lines of Age (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Desire to escape, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Short story by Jimmy Tokeshi about an Issei grandfather who takes his nineteen-year-old granddaughter on an impromptu pilgrimage to Manzanar on Christmas Eve decades after his wartime incarceration there.

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Children of Topaz (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Companionship as salvation, Isolation, Nature as beauty
  • Widely available

A snowfall at Topaz brings children out of the barracks to engage in snowball fights and snowman building. They recall friends back home and wish their non-Japanese American friends can join them in play. The very short story by Toshio Mori —dubbed "A Sketch"—appeared in the Pacific Citizen newspaper in 1945.

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A Star Is Something to Steer By (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Convention and rebellion, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Short story by Mataileen Larkin Ramsdell about the contentious but affectionate relationship between a white high school teacher in Rohwer and an intelligent but cynical student. A young teacher from Wisconsin, Eve Erickson is immediately drawn to Joe Moriyama, the smallest boy in 11th grade homeroom class, who is constantly challenging her by pointing out the contradictions between the American creed and the treatment of Japanese Americans. In one instance, he tells her about a girl in her class who had her family farm registered in her name to get around the alien land law , but who now found herself the target of an escheat case upon the death of her father. Over time Joe and Eve come to like and respect each other. When Nisei are deemed eligible for the draft in 1944, Joe and other boys in her class are drafted, but he is uncharacteristically silent. He …

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The Flower Girls (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Heartbreak of betrayal, Loss of innocence, Optimism – power or folly, Progress – real or illusion
  • Available

Short story by Lawson Fusao Inada . Two girls named Cherry and Rose—dubbed the "flower girls" by their teacher—become best friends as first and second graders in Portland, Oregon, just prior to World War II. They play at each other's houses after school and explore each other's neighborhood, though both agree that Cherry's—the Japantown area known as Shita Machi—is more interesting. But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drives a wedge between them, and Cherry and her family are soon sent away. While the girls exchange a few letters, they soon lose touch. Switching to the present, the narrator writes about a new Cherry and Rose, who meet to play in the Japanese garden of a Portland park.

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Las Vegas Charley (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Temptation and destruction, Vulnerability of the meek, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story by Hisaye Yamamoto about an Issei man named Kazuyuki Matsumoto, who works as a dishwasher at a Las Vegas restaurant while gambling away his wages. In flashback, we learn of his life story: boyhood in Kumamoto prefecture, then migration to the U.S. where he becomes a successful farmer in Santa Maria, California, and is soon joined by a "picture bride" wife, Haru and two sons. But Haru's death in childbirth after the birth of their second son changes Kazuyuki's life decisively. He sends the two boys to live with his mother in Japan and becomes a migrant laborer. At first, he sends regular remittances home, but he soon picks up a gambling habit and the payments gradually come to an end. He later brings his Kibei sons back to the U.S., where they start a new farming venture in Orange County, California, this one less successful. Then comes …

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The Red Tricycle (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Injustice, Optimism – power or folly
  • Available

The scene as a Nikkei family—a mother with her two daughters and four-year-old son Tommy—make the last preparations at their farmhouse before a truck comes to take them to the train station that will deliver them to a concentration camp. Their spirits are temporarily buoyed by a unexpected kind act by one of the soldiers who comes for them.

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Changes (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Change versus tradition, Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Lost honor, Role of men
  • Available

Short story by Marnie Mueller set in an unspecified Japanese American concentration camp. As the story begins, Toru Horokawa, an Issei man, sits outside his barrack thinking about returning to Japan. He flashes back to the time of the exclusion, two years prior, as he and his wife disagree about the selling of their possessions to bargain seekers. He then recalls his recent clashes with his Nisei son, his only child, who has announced that he will be joining the army.

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The Sensei (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Facing reality, Nationalism – complications, Reunion
  • Widely available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi centering on a former Buddhist priest whose gambling addiction has turned him into a beggar in the early postwar years. Told in the first person by a Nisei woman named Utako, the story begins with the outbreak of war and the then seventeen-year-old Utako's incarceration with her family in an Arizona concentration camp. The loyalty questionnaire divides the family, as her brother Toshio becomes a " no-no boy " and gets sent alone to Tule Lake . There, he becomes friends with Jim Morita, a fellow "no-no." After the war, the family returns to Los Angeles, and Utako ends up marrying Jim; she works as a painter of shower curtains, while he attends college. A couple of years later, Jim and Utako visit Las Vegas. On their way out, they run into the title character, a former Buddhist priest who had been a powerful inmate …

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Pleasure of Plain Rice (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Desire to escape, Self-awareness, Working class struggles
  • Limited availability

Essay/story by Hisaye Yamamoto on racial identity that focuses on her month-long stint as a domestic in Springfield, Massachusetts, during World War II. She begins the piece by noting various white Americans she knows who have changed their ethnic-sounding last names to less ethnic sounding ones, noting the futility of her doing such a thing as a Japanese American, citing the mass incarceration during World War II. Anxious to leave Poston , where she and her family ended up, she and two of her younger brothers are allowed to leave for Massachusetts in the summer of 1944. While her fifteen-year-old brother Yuke is placed in a summer camp in the Berkshires, the War Relocation Authority office in Boston assigns her and her seventeen-year-old brother Jemo to become domestic servants for a wealthy widow in Springfield. Both initially dislike the stern and formal family and the job duties that had to …

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Some Lines for a Younger Brother... (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy, Disillusionment and dreams, Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Limited availability

First person recollection of the author's younger brother centering on the impact the World War II incarceration had on him. The youngest of eight children, Tets was doted on by his older siblings, but devastated when his father died when he was eight. A few years later, he had become a demoralized teenager in Manzanar who began skipping high school classes upon his return to Los Angeles after the war. Joining the army to see the world, he is almost at the end of his hitch when the Korean War breaks out. Sent into combat, he is killed in action. Years later, the author recalls attending the first Manzanar Pilgrimage and seeing the image of Tets as a child once again.

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Mary Osaka, I Love You (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Everlasting love, Immigrant experience, Nationalism – complications
  • Widely available

Short story by acclaimed writer John Fante about the love between a Filipino American immigrant man and a Nisei woman that takes place in Los Angeles as World War II breaks out. A part of Fante's intended novel on Filipino Americans, it was first published in Good Housekeeping magazine in October 1942.

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Nurse (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Hazards of passing judgment
  • Available

Short story by Masaharu Hane centering on an Issei man on a train in the Southwest during World War II. Spotting a Nisei young woman fellow passenger—one of the few "Japanese" on the train—sitting next to a white soldier, the narrator passes time on the trip by conjuring various unlikely scenarios that explain her travel circumstances, before learning the rather mundane truth. Originally published in a Poston Japanese language literary publication, "Nurse" was included in the 1991 literary anthology The Big Aiiieeeee!

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